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Confessions of an ex-End-Point Assessor – Digital Marketer EPA preparation guide

Are you about to go through your Digital Marketer EPA? Need some hint and tips on how to prepare and what to expect? Here’s a cheeky little read for you!

The dreaded End-Point Assessment

You’ve been working on this for 12 to 14 months, it’s all been leading to this. You’ve completed your portfolio, done your exams, listed your OTJ, completed your Synoptic Project, and now you’re waiting on the end boss, the interview. Well, I’m here today to tell you… You’ll be absolutely fine. This article is here as another voice other than your Coaches to talk you through the process and give you some tips and hints on how you can ace your EPA on the Digital Marketer level 3. I know what you’re thinking, why are they telling me this? I don’t even work with these guys! Well, because we’re nice, let’s leave it at that.

Who am I and why should you trust me?

My name is Mitch and I’ve been working in apprenticeships, specifically in what we call delivery, for about eight years. Over that time I’ve specialised in marketing apprenticeships and have worked with over 300 learners from across the nation. I was doing this way back when I had to drive to go and see learners in their workplaces instead of over Teams, scary! During this time, I’ve seen countless learners go through their Digital Marketer EPA process and my learners had around a 74% distinction rate. Not only this, but I’ve worked as an End-Point Assessor in Digital Marketing and have done all of the things that your assessor will have hopefully done for you. Anyway, I know my onions. Let’s begin.

What this guide is and is not

This guide is more of a preparation checklist to give you an idea of the EPA process. It is not a “how to game your EPA”. You’ve probably gotten that from your Training Provider. Oh, some shade right there. Ultimately, every assessment and assessor is different, so I can’t really give you the cheat codes anyway. But this should go some way to pulling back the curtain a little bit for you to really understand how it all works.

How is your assessment conducted?

So, your overall assessment is broken down into four elements:

  1. Portfolio review;
  2. Employer reference review;
  3. Synoptic project review;
  4. Interview.

A common question I’m asked is what these elements each contribute toward the final grade and the often surprising answer is, well that depends. There is no strict quantification to each of those elements. However, unofficially, some of them count more toward your final grade than others. Personally, I’d order them as such and here’s why:

1. Portfolio

This contributes toward all of the evidence of the competencies. You work on it for 12+ months and is the bulk of your work toward the apprenticeship. If this is poor, or there are gaps, we have to use the other elements to try and fill those gaps. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you can’t still get a Distinction, you’ll just need to do a good job in the other areas to achieve one. I’ve had this in the past myself as an End-Point Assessor.

2. Interview

This is your proving ground, your pedestal, and your bullhorn to shout about how good you are. This 60-or-so-minute conversation with the Assessor is when you need to bring your A-game and talk about your experience and evidence. This interview has affected the final grades I’ve awarded and sometimes has taken passes to distinctions and vice versa. The interview is a process for the Assessor to validate and authenticate your evidence and test you on your overall experience and competence. This is not a knowledge test do not feel like you’ve got to explain the principles of SEO to the Assessor. That was all dealt with in your exams;

3. Synoptic project

This is a proof of skills and initiative exercise. If you’ve been taught properly, developed by your employer & coach, and used your OTJ training effectively, this project will be a cakewalk. This for me was the proof of validation that the evidence in your portfolio was really 100% all you or if it was heavily influenced by the coach or employer. You have to understand that as End-Point Assessors, their job is to validate and authenticate evidence. So, if you show these fantastic email marketing in your portfolio but can’t use a simple ESP in your Synoptic Project we know something is fishy;

4. Employer reference

For me, this was the least important element and rarely affected a final grade at all. The employer reference is often just used to corroborate evidence within the portfolio from the Line Manager’s perspective but also for additional points that may not have been included in the portfolio. Basically, make sure your employer talks about anything else you’ve done that may have been outside the scope of your regular duties or that you excelled in that could be related to the standard.

What happens once you’ve finished the interview?

The Assessor goes away and writes up your final paperwork. This process can take some time and will vary from EPAO to EPAO. Typically, however, you’ll tend to get your final grade back within 5 to 10 working days. This will be sent to your Training Provider and the final paperwork consists of your final grade and some qualitative feedback around each element. However, for fair play, this feedback is often quite generalised to stop those crafty Coaches from gaming the system.

Tips for each of the elements

So, here are my tips for anyone coming up to or waiting on their final EPA stages:


Quality over quantity

This is the way forward. I’ve seen 300-page portfolios, 120-page portfolios, and I’ve seen 50-page portfolios. However, what really mattered was the quality and coverage of the projects inside them. As Assessors we’d rather see three or four really solid projects that go into depth than ten projects that show the same thing and scratch the surface. I’ve had amazing portfolios in the 80-page range and awful portfolios in the 240-page range. Now I’m not saying trim them down per se, but definitely just show your best work.

Make sure those competencies are boxed off!

If you don’t hit those requirements you’re making your job a lot harder to get that Distinction. The competencies are there for a reason. Now, it may not be all in your hands to get all that evidence and hopefully, your coach and employer will have addressed issues for you along the way if you were having difficulty with certain competencies. Common issues I always found were around Customer Service, Specialisms, and Problem Solving.


Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Make sure to review all of your evidence before you sit your interview. This doesn’t mean remembering every minute detail, but, make sure you refresh your memory. Some questions may be very specific to elements of your portfolio, so you’ll want to be able to recall those elements without having to re-read all your evidence on the call which will waste precious minutes.

Ultimately, you don’t know what questions you’ll be asked so preparing for the interview fully is impossible. However, just think logically about the competencies, where you feel your evidence is weakest, and how you can discuss those things.

You can have your evidence with you!

I cannot tell you the number of times learners arrived at interviews without their evidence! You can take all of your evidence into the interview. I would often be told that learners were not informed they that they could bring their evidence into the interview. You 100% can and should. That also includes your Synoptic Project. You may not need them, but make sure it’s accessible in case you do!

Be prepared to share

This is your platform to shout about yourself and show off. Make sure you do this! You can absolutely share your screen and show things you’ve been working on if you feel it adds value. You may explicitly be asked to do so as well. Be ready to show off what you’ve been up to.

A side note: I sometimes encountered learners who were no longer with their employers and as such wouldn’t be able to show and demonstrate tools or projects, etc. It isn’t the end of the world if this happens, so don’t worry, however, have a think about any public-facing examples you may have access to. For example, maybe you did some posts on social media, or you sent yourself test emails before sending them out. Get some of this stuff ready just in case.

Synoptic project

Plan, do, review

You have a timed project in which you have to do XYZ. My advice is sit down for half or a full day and make sense of everything. Do your research and make your plan. Then, start executing on it. I think a lot of learners go into their projects either blind because they didn’t really think about the project prior to starting or didn’t sit a mock with their provider. Doing this puts you at a disadvantage because you could do a great deal of the thinking process before you even start.

Employer reference

Have a glance over this document before you go into your interview, but don’t worry too much about its contents. It’s unlikely your Assessor will really drill down into the ER as they’ll have enough content to look at in the portfolio and project. However, sometimes, Assessors like to take little nuggets of information and ask you about them from this document. So, just identify if there are any bits or pieces which stand out from your other evidence.

Final grade

Right, your final grade. In reality, there should really only be three possible options. Distinction, pass, referral. Merit is a bit of a unicorn in that it’s so difficult to land so precisely in the middle of pass and distinction that in all my time doing this job I’ve had one of my learners get a merit in nearly 300 EPAs, and I’ve given one myself as an Assessor.

A word on referrals

Referrals on Digital Marketer are quite rare. They’re not as rare as merits maybe, but very rare nonetheless. However, it is not the end of the world if you get one. You are able to resit your EPA and with the added bonus you are told why you were referred. This should enable you to adjust your evidence and resubmit for a second sitting whereby your chances of passing increase dramatically. We’ll be writing another article on referrals down the line so keep an eye out if this has affected you.

All done

So, there we have it, that’s my two cents on Digital Marketer EPA. If you’ve found this guide helpful then make sure to sign up for our newsletter. We’ll send out monthly updates on articles, advice, and events. But, in the meantime, if you’re going through EPA soon, I wish you all the best and good luck.

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